Responding: A New Apologetics Resource for Kids!

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At speaking engagements, I am frequently asked about apologetics materials for children. The great news is that there is a growing body of work for teaching children how to engage thoughtfully with the truth claims of Christianity. One of the newest resources is by the Cold-Case Christianity author, J. Warner Wallace, and his wife, Susie Wallace!51qib5depwl-_sy344_bo1204203200_

Cold-Case Christianity for Kids places the reader right in the middle of detective cadet academy training. As a student cadet, the reader is trained by Wallace’s mentor, Detective Jeffries, to become a critical investigator of the facts. Alongside the criminal investigation, Detective Jeffries helps skeptical-minded students to investigate Christianity and the claims made about Jesus Christ.

The students learn to investigate with a critical eye, but also learn when to trust the conclusion of a body of evidence; including how to examine eye-witness testimony, such as found in the Gospels. These skills are vital to students who are growing up in a society in which, as G.K. Chesterton once lamented, is so open-minded that their brains fall out. Our battle today is with teaching actual logic and reason in a society that uses reason as pretense to hide behind poor thinking skills and uncritical commitments to beliefs.

Questioning: Jesus Invited People to Examine Their Beliefs

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Excerpted from Why Do You Believe That? A Faith Conversation apologetics bible study. Lifeway Christian Resources, 2012.
QuestioningOut of a great love for people, Jesus invited them to examine their beliefs and their way of thinking to uncover truth out of great love for them.  An instructive example of Jesus’ concern for truth is the story of the rich young man.

Read Mark 10:17-27

What did the young man ask Jesus?

How did Jesus reply?

Even though Jesus hasn’t directly addressed the man’s point of how to inherit eternal life yet, Jesus has already questioned one faulty view–that Jesus is simply a “good teacher.”  People today continue to make this common mistake about the person of Jesus–that he could have been a good teacher, but not God.  Jesus replies to the man’s flattery by saying that there is none that is good except God.  Jesus is indirectly teaching the man the nature of his identity as the God, who is the source and standard of goodness.[i]

After Jesus’ response that the young man must keep all the commandments, how does the young man reply?

Listening: Being Heard with Confidence

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From the title of my blog, Confident Christianity, a person may think that my ultimate desire is to be right or correct in my view when talking with those who disagree with me. However, I am the kind of person that cares much more about being heard in a conversation than I am about being right. I know, some of you are thinking, “Danger, Will Robinson!” I understand your concern; so walk with me a bit on this matter.

I am a believer in objective truth as well as in an external reality that is to be discovered. Yet, I’m also a believer in God and in the fallen state of mankind within His creation. So I know that my reasoning, while it can match external reality, can often go astray due to my own perversion of thought, the idols of the mind (hat tip to Francis Bacon). ListeningI can rationalize nearly anything I want to be true. So I must be cautious to not become intellectually arrogant, or puffed up in my thinking…especially about my thinking. I see this very attitude a lot on the Internet from all different kinds of people.

Rather, my desire is to be on a life-long journey of learning with other people. In that regard, my concern is to aptly communicate my own view and to have my view understood as closely to the truth of it as possible. There is a story to my view and reasons for why I hold to it. If we can openly discuss our views, you might hear that story. If we cannot openly discuss our views, you will probably pass by me as one passes by flowers in the fields on an open highway, rarely seen nor enjoyed.

Knowing: Shaking Up a Familiar Life Route

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This post has been excerpted from Living In Truth: Confident Conversation in a Conflicted Culture, Lifeway Christian Resources.

“‘This—is now MY way,—where is yours?’ Thus did I answer those who asked me ‘the way’. For THE way—it doth not exist!”
                                    –Friederich Nietzsche
                                   Thus Spake Zarathustra, Third Part, Chapter LV.
                                   “Of the Spirit of Gravity”. Trans. Thomas Common.

Friederich Nietzsche, an atheist philosopher, remarked that there is no “way” to go in this life. Every one of us creates their own way and lives their life in accordance with whatever it is they believe. His statement is more familiar to us today in the form of “Whatever you believe is true for you, and whatever I believe is true for me. So don’t shove your religious morals/ideas/truth on me!” Ultimately, this view destroys the basic ideas that: 1) there is any truth to be found, and 2) finding truth actually matters. Further, Nietzsche’s view is ultimately unlivable, because we run smack dab into truth every day of our lives.

The late Christian philosopher, Dallas Willard, said, “Reality is what we run into when we are wrong.” Though sometimes I try to create my own way, I can assure you that I regularly “run into” reality.


Think of how truth affects your daily life; specifically think of a time when you found out you were wrong on a matter.

What was it that was wrong?

Did you have to adjust your thinking? Why or why not?

What was the consequence of the wrong thinking?

Back when I still drove a truck, I was going along a familiar route to work when out of the blue, I hit the curb. One of the tires squealed as it grated against the side of the curb. The jolt and noise of the impact shook me out of ‘autopilot’ making me pay more close attention.  Apparently, though, this first hit didn’t focus my thought enough to keep me out of trouble very long. Later in the day, I was again driving a very familiar route and drove right into a piece of curb protruding from a construction zone: up, over, and back down again. This time, the entire vehicle was shaken. I was shaken. Now I had a healthy fear of my inattentiveness to my surroundings.  I was on guard.

Responding: Atheistic Physicalism and Letting Go of Too Much

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A person might say to you, “The physical universe is all there is, was, or ever will be.” Or they may say, “There is nothing supernatural or spiritual or immaterial.” These statements may express the views known as atheistic materialism, or physicalism, or naturalism (all related beliefs). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines physicalism as, “the thesis that everything is physical, or as contemporary philosophers sometimes put it, that everything supervenes on the physical.” [1] All these views adhere to a belief that material, or physical, matter is all that exists. In responding to this view, I see an inconsistency of thought (pun intended): the inconsistency of atheistic physicalism and free will, aka “free thought.” [2]

In an atheistic physicalist view of the world, there cannot exist anything that is not made of physical
matter. Therefore, “thoughts” are a huge problem, because they are not made of “stuff.” Further,responding reducing our consciousness, and thoughts (the immaterial), to simply a program run by the brain (the material matter) has the unintended consequence of destroying the basis for human free will. Neuroscientist Raymond Tallis, in his book refuting the idea that consciousness is reducible to neural activity in the brain, Aping Mankind, states, “The distinctive features of human beings–self-hood, freewill, that collective space called the human world, the sense that we lead our lives rather than simply live them as organisms do–are being discarded as illusions by many, even by philosophers, who should think a little bit harder and question the glamour of science rather than succumbing to it.” [3] If thoughts can essentially have no existence in your own worldview, you cannot then be a “freethinker.” For some, this may seem a trivial matter, but for me, it tells of a greater disturbance.

Questioning: Christians Should Question Beliefs

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Excerpted from “Why Do You Believe That? A Faith Conversation apologetics bible study, LifeWay Christian Resources, 2012.

“Sometimes the kindest thing we can do for people is gently shake up their presuppositions and invite them to think.” – Sue Bohlin of Probe Ministries

In 2007, I spoke at the University of Houston, Clear Lake, on the topic of “Can Truth Be Known About God?” Some of the main points included that Questioningwe have a responsibility to find what is true, that it is not intolerant to say you think you have truth, and that there is truth to be known. At the end of
my talk, several students asked me questions, including one gentleman who sat down with me for nearly half an hour. He was a follower of Eckhart Tolle, the main religious instructor in Oprah Winfrey’s life at that time. His main question was how I could claim to know truth at all through my thinking abilities. He said that I couldn’t know the truth about God until I got beyond my thinking abilities to the point where I experienced God as feeling; not as believing.

I said, “Can I ask you a question?” He affirmed that I could. I asked, “How do you know that you have the truth about God?” He replied, “Because I can feel it.” I asked, “But how do you know that feeling represents the truth about God?” He thought for a moment and replied, “Because it is a good feeling.” I asked, “How did you decide that good feelings are equivalent to the truth about God?” He said, “I don’t know, but it’s not something you decide by thinking about it.” I further asked, “How do you decide something if you aren’t thinking about it” and “Did you think about Eckhart Tolle’s ideas before you accepted them as true?”

Listening for Accountability

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This post has been excerpted from my apologetics bible study,Why Do You Believe That? A Faith Conversation,” LifeWay Christian Resources, 2012.

In a passage from Proverbs 26:1-11, Solomon discusses the nature of the foolish person. He utilizes some fairly striking imagery. Solomon’s description of the fool is extremely derogatory. It is a person that no one would ever hope to become. The fool is injurious to others (v.1-2), doesn’t respond to intellectual appeal—only to physical discipline (v.3), Listeninguntrustworthy with messages (v.6), is not worthy of honor (v.8), isn’t hirable (v.10), and doesn’t learn from past mistakes (v.11). However, Solomon is not setting up the image of the fool merely to describe the foolish person, he is going to make a shocking statement:

“Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.”

It always stuns me when I meet a person who seems to believe that they have everything figured out. They won’t take correction or even a little constructive criticism. They are unapproachable and have no accountability for their beliefs. Solomon says that this pride is more damaging to a person than is the foolishness of the person he previously described. Solomon’s warnings throughout Proverbs are just a small part of the overall warnings in the Bible to constantly seek wisdom through correction and instruction; not allowing pride to creep in.

We must take a position of humility of knowledge in this life realizing we can never “know it all.” One way to encourage humility of knowledge is to really listen to others’ ideas and thoughts.

Knowing: Faith and Reason, Part Two

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(Read part one here.)

“This explains why it is so hard to reason with some people. Their very mind has been taken over by one or more feelings and is made to defend and serve those feelings at all costs.”

“Combined with a sense of righteousness, strong feeling becomes impervious to fact and reason.” – Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart, pgs. 124-125

KnowingIn our last Knowing session, we discussed the importance of turning our focus inward toward developing our own critical thought, including the relation of critical thought to maturity in trust in God via the spiritual disciplines. This session, we will turn the focus outward toward ministering to others.

From my experience, people do not tend to engage in conversation of which they have no knowledge. Rather, people tend to discuss things in which they are confident, especially when it is material as sensitive as belief in God. Therefore, part of having an effective conversation on belief in God includes engaging people in the knowledge of which they can speak. As we embark on this type of conversation, we will find a lot of misinformation, falsehoods, misperception, dogma and slogans, as well as some different ways at looking at the same truth. We have a role to play as a light bearer in the journey together with our fellow humans towards truth. I do not say this to sound trite, as if a person who is not a Christian has no truth (or light). I do say this to remind the Christian to be a light bearer; a person who is willing to sacrifice their own comfort in order to discover and gain more light.

Let’s carry on with the task of discovering truth together!

Responding: Is Apologetics a ‘Sad Replacement’ for Bible Study?

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Is apologetics a “sad replacement” for Bible study?

Recently, on my ministry Facebook page, a fellow believer in Christ commented that apologetics was unnecessary and a deterrent to true Bible study. Though I made a few comments to him, and he retorted, I wanted to treat this objection with just a little more thought here.

respondingFirst, as you would notice upon visiting my page, I am not shy about telling other believers when their method of communication leaves much to be relationally desired. Is it necessary to handle this aspect of the question posed? Yes. I have found far too many believers “policing” the Internet for people with whom they disagree[1]; who then engage in strident and unChrist-like retorts of fellow Christians all within view of seekers, people of different faith, and people of no belief in God. If Christians want to maintain a respectable voice in the public square, they must remember Christ’s teaching that “as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them” (Luke 6:31), or Paul’s teaching of “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phillipans 2:3-4). Though we all mess up at times, these admonitions should constantly weigh on our hearts.

Christians, who proclaim the great love and forgiveness of Christ, are supposed to be a testimony to that truth. If we cannot engage in disagreements, even in an online forum, without using negatively charged wording to tear one another down, why would a non-Christian be interested in our beliefs? When I was atheist, this kind of strident behavior turned me off, no matter what you said you believed (it still does).

Second, as my response indicated, to suggest that a person either does one or the other is a false dichotomy. A person may study the Bible in various ways: for meditation, for memory, for exegesis, for context, for prayer, for relationship, for instruction in righteousness, for philosophy, for archaeology, for anthropology, for theology, or even for apology. These areas may overlap in any given study time or may not overlap. One reason for studying does not inherently exclude another. I may study the text for exegesis, which leads to instruction in righteousness, thereby influencing my theology and philosophy, and further, my apologetic. However, I do agree with the gentleman that studying the Scripture is a lifelong process of moving from milk to strong meat. And I’m sure I haven’t covered nearly all the reasons for studying.

Third, I believe this is a narrow view of apologetics, something close to “arguing someone into the Kingdom of God,” or “arguing for the sake of arguing.” However, no one can be argued into the Kingdom of God; neither can anyone be “studied” into the Kingdom of God. We can sit around and pat ourselves on the back for how awesome our exegetical study of the Book of John was, but that doesn’t equal lives that have trusted in Christ for salvation. Salvation is the work of the Spirit and is between the individual and God. Study, including apologetics, can aid an individual in understanding the revelation and person of God, which can help open one up to the truth. Study, however, cannot make a believer; only surrender and trust can do that.

Further, arguing for argument’s sake, or being argumentative, is a character flaw, usually coupled with a belligerent attitude and a lack of graciousness. Believers are to have nothing to do with a lifestyle of argumentativeness.

Fourth, we have examples of apologetics given in the Scriptures, as well as formal apologetic writings from the early church fathers. Some examples of those who either argued and/or reasoned with people or gave a formal defense of belief in the resurrection of Jesus are:

– Paul: Acts 17 (vv. 2-3, 16-34), Acts 18:4, Acts 19:8, Acts 26
– Apollos: Acts 18:28
– Peter: 1 Peter 3:13-17 (commanded that the persecuted believers be ready to give a defense of the reason of their hope; the hope being the resurrection of Christ)
– Early church father, Justin Martyr, “The First Apology of Justin.”

Finally, it looked as though his real concern with me stemmed from my current fundraising campaign. He never formalized his view on why apologetics ministries cannot raise funds for their work, but he seemed quite opposed to the endeavor. So on that note: I do two online fundraising events per year. One is right now and the other is at the end of the year. We raise enough money ($10K) to support our administrative assistant and to continue taking events that cannot afford the full burden of expense to host us. My desire is to continue to give of my time and energy toward teaching on effective conversation through knowing, listening, questioning, and responding. When you give, no matter how much, you are a part of reaching that goal! So thank you, Facebook commenter, for mentioning my fundraiser!

Apologetics isn’t a sad replacement for Bible study. The statement belies an error of thought. Apologetics is part of a lifelong commitment to understanding the revelation of God in His creation: the Word, the Person, and the universe. Apologetics is a part of Bible study.

[1] In this case, the gentleman stated that I appeared in an ad on his Facebook or possibly in his newsfeed. It is therefore possible that he was not “policing” for apologists with which to argue. However, Facebook ads run on algorithms, which adjust to the things of which you show a patterned interest. So, I’m not entirely sure how I just “popped up.” Perhaps a promoted post made its way to his eyes or perhaps he’s been looking at apologetics sites, as he implied in his refutations: “I see many things for apologetics on FB…”

Questioning Modeled by Jesus

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Excerpted from “Why Do You Believe That? A Faith Conversation apologetics bible study, LifeWay Christian Resources, 2012.

Since I began studying apologetics, I have noticed that Christians are engaged in a lot of defending and supporting their own beliefs. This is a good and productive activity. However, I haven’t noticed as many QuestioningChristians engaging others in the support and defense of their beliefs. We seem to have become caught in a way of seeing the world that suggests Christians (or religious followers, more broadly speaking) are the only ones responsible for evidencing their beliefs. This is entirely untrue. Everyone has beliefs. Those beliefs can be productively and effectively questioned.

This week we will add to our good listening skills and to our foundation of belief in Jesus, the ability to be good questioners who do not assume that others have reasoned through their own beliefs. Our model for asking valuable questions comes from Jesus.

Jesus used questions to challenge his followers as well as to challenge those who opposed him. Sometimes his questions helped the hearer discover a deeper truth about faith in God. At other times his questions served to expose an untruth and/or the dishonesty of a person. Let’s read an example of one instance where Jesus asked a question.

“Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.” Matthew 22:41-46

A couple groups of religious leaders had asked Jesus a series of theological questions just prior to Jesus asking this question. The purpose of these questions was to entrap Jesus to answer in a way that either violated the religious law or violated logic. Jesus, knowing their dishonest intent, asked them a series of questions that would not only reveal an untruth, but would reveal that these religious leaders were knowingly committed to the untruth. So far, Jesus had asked them who the Messiah would be and the religious leaders answered, “the Son of David”; in other words, purely a man.

Now Jesus, quoting Psalm 110:1, asked the leaders how it was that David could call a man who was David’s son, “Lord.” Plus, this “Lord” is the Lord who sits at the right hand of God: it is God himself. This presented a logical problem if the religious leaders considered Messiah as only a man. Jesus’ questions revealed several problems for these leaders. First, the religious leaders did not understand their own Scriptures (yet again; remember Matthew 22:23-33). Second, Jesus demonstrated that the religious leaders were committed to an untruth. They would not listen and take to heart Jesus’ theologically and logically accurate teaching. They were unwilling to change. Nor, as we see in verse 46, were they willing to face the truth at all, for they stopped their interaction with Jesus.

Jesus used questions to draw out deep, personal bias in the religious leaders against his teachings and against his identity. He showed them that their beliefs were not rooted in good arguments or good reasoning.

Have you come across a person who was not making a good argument against the Christian faith? What was their argument?

How did you respond to their argument?

Have you ever been asked a question about your faith that was meant to entrap you? What was that question?

How did you respond?

Have you ever asked a person a question to help them discover a problem with their reasoning? What did you ask?